The Flavorful Poaching Technique That Gives Tofu An Incredible Texture

For vegetarians and vegans, tofu is a versatile and nourishing gift. You can fry it, bake, boil, stew, steam it, and dress it up and down in any number of marinades or sauces. Imagine some BBQ tofu on game nights or tofu Pad Thai steaming next to a side of coconut soup. First created in China, tofu looks like white slabs of solid matter, resembling white cheese blocks in their pale appearance, size, and shape (per Healthline).

Healthline notes that tofu is just condensed soy milk that's been pressed into shape and stabilized with nigari (a seawater extract), but despite its plain looks and somewhat bland taste, tofu is remarkably good for you. It comes stuffed with high amounts of protein and all the amino acids you need to survive — and it may result in a lower risk of heart disease! That is to say, tofu can do a great many things from enhancing your meal to boosting your nutrients, but at the end of the day, it's a food we're eager to use, but tofu doesn't always make it easy for us.

Tofu can come in an array of forms. Some tofu is super soft (often labeled as "silken") while others are extra firm. Tofupedia states that the more water that is in the tofu, the silkier and smooth it will be. Conversely, the more dehydrated, the sturdier it will be. Unfortunately, due to all the water stored in tofu, and the liquid tofu packaged with it, it can be very difficult to make crispy tofu, so let's skip crisping altogether and do something different to infuse flavor.

Salt water for the win

When many people open up their packages of tofu, the immediate preparation these days seems to be drying it out to air fry or sauté. But you don't have to dry all the water from your tofu to have an amazing meal! According to Joe Yonan at The Washington Post, instead of frying, try poaching! Yonan references cookbook author Hannah Che, whose book has a recipe for garlic and basil tofu. Che highly recommends boiling tofu (cut into cubes or however you prefer) in salted water. 

This shouldn't be a dainty salt either! No, you must thoroughly salt the water so that when your tofu goes in, the salt will draw out excess moisture. Che calls the technique "liangban," and it gives the tofu a firmer texture. You can serve the poached tofu hot or cold. Dress it with a basil-garlic mix, and you'll be in for a treat. Food52 says not only does the salt draw out most of the tofu's inner moisture to create great texture, but it also enhances the flavor of the food and warms it up — much like it would a vegetable. And depending on the level of tofu firmness you started with, you could end up with a bowl of silky textured protein or one that is perfect to crumble on top of a dish.